Friday 16 September 2016

Bits and Pieces

Waders were again on the menu on Wednesday night with another Swallow roost attempted before.  We weren't overly optimistic going into it with a full high tide only beginning to drop around 9pm, clear skies, no wind and very large bright moon - i.e. bad conditions.  It was also a hot one and the midges were out on mass and somehow after all the rain and it being high tide, our pools were nearly dry!
We set as usual for the Swallows and managed to attract only 30 birds this time around.  We watched them for a while and they appeared to drop into the reedbed but not near the nets.  We ended up with 2 Reed Buntings, 1 Stonechat and 1 Wren.   


For the waders it was a bit of a tester to see if they are still attracted to the pools and tape during high tide or falling tide.  The answer I guess is NO but we didn't leave empty handed.  We caught 8 Dunlin and 3 Redshank with a couple more birds bouncing when it was still bright including a Curlew.  I think we will stick to rising tides in future!

Dean with a Redshank and Dunlin

We were out again at Portstewart Strand on Saturday morning in what was a mostly sunny morning with a stiff North westerly breeze.  Dean, John, Rick and I were on site shortly after 6am and set the usual nets, although none around the feeders.
The site was really quiet with the only obvious migrants being a single Willow Warbler, 6+ Wheatear, 70+ Meadow Pipits and a few Sand Martins and Swallows.  The feeders did get a bit of action through the morning with 6+ species visiting them and we probably should have put a net in front of them.

Meadow Pipit

We did spot an interesting duck, which when first glimpsed looked like a male Pochard with a bright reddish head.  I've only ever seen one Pochard in the estuary so I grabbed the scope for a proper look.  The bird had turned in the sun to show a clean white patch between the bill and eyes and Scaup-esque flanks like an adult female Greater Scaup.  It then showed an obvious white 'bum' with its white under tail coverts, similar to a Ferruginous Duck.  Overall a very confusing bird and surely a hybrid unless someone knows of some exotic duck that 'fits the bill'?  I would suggest it was a Ferruginous x Greater Scaup.  Not sure how hybridisation works exactly (i.e. can a bird show male traits of one species and female of another) but it certainly showed suitable features for a female of both species.

The lack of birds had a direct impact on the ringing and it was really quiet with five nets catching nothing.  Our usual staples of Blackbird, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Song Thrush etc. are still missing and surely indicative of a poor breeding season.

On Tuesday I paid a short visit to PSS once again between 16.00-19.00 to see if there was anything new in.  It was a sunny evening with a stiff breeze from the north.  There was very little about other than a flock of Goldfinches at the feeders and a single Chiffchaff calling from the bushes.


PSS Ringing Totals
                                 New      Retrap
Blue Tit                                    2
Chaffinch                   2
Dunnock                                  1
Goldcrest                   1
Goldfinch                 14           5
Meadow Pipit           10
Wren                          1            

Total                        28           8           

The ringing information for the controlled Portuguese Sand Martin came in during the week and it was a really nice catch.  The bird was originally ringed in the Algarve region of Portugal just behind the glitzy marina of Vilamoura in what looks like a marshy reedbed with a couple of ponds/lakes.  It was originally ringed on the 4th of October 2015 as a juvenile and retrapped by us 286 days later at a straight line distance of 2012 kilometres.   

Portuguese Sand Martin Control

Ken and Tyrone were set for a good morning ringing in Kens garden last Friday but unfortunately the rain appeared and cut it short.  The garden is attracting quite a few birds at the moment with the majority tempted in by 12 sunflower heart feeders. Considering they were only up and running for around an hour they got a decent catch of 30 birds including 14 Coal Tits. 

Blue Tit      8
Chaffinch   5
Coal Tit     14
Great Tit     3

There have been some new Tern arrivals this week in the estuary including a Black Tern.  I grabbed an hour on Sunday morning to try and pick up the Black Tern for the patch list.  I located the Terns in their usual roosting spot and had a good sift through. Amongst the birds I found 2 Black Terns, 1 colour ringed Sandwich Tern and a further 14 metal ringed Sante and comic terns.  I tried to clinch the colour ring digits but the bird kept flushing.  The bird was either ringed in the Netherlands or much more likely, in the Ethan Estuary in Scotland. 

Dean, Steve and I are off to Copeland Bird Observatory this weekend so we are hoping for something good.  Tonight's boat was cancelled unfortunately but we hope to get out early on Saturday morning and make the most of it.  Fingers crossed we will have something to update on!

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